Yeng Guiao back in old role as independent underdog ready to take on PBA’s power structure
It didn’t take long for Yeng Guiao to find his way back to his old home Rain or Shine. In as short a time, he also found his way back to his old self.
The outspoken mentor, a longtime advocate of fairness, hasn’t even met some of his old players at practice yet when he again harped about parity—or the lack of it—in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) these days.
“I am managing expectations to a great extent,” Guiao told the Inquirer over the phone when he was asked if he can deliver Rain or Shine’s third title in the three-year contract he signed on Monday morning. “There is a cycle happening in the PBA and it is stacked against the independent teams.
“You have to be extraordinarily lucky to win a championship,” he went on. “Historically, we (Elasto Painters) were the last [independent] team to do it in 2016. And nowadays, just getting to the semifinals is like winning a championship.”
Guiao certainly knows what he’s talking about, since he called the shots at NLEX for close to six years and had to give up some of the players he wanted in order to build a legitimate title contender.
“For us to have great players, it will take years to develop them—in your own backyard,” he said without really elaborating. “Unlike monied teams, they can acquire great players in an instant.”
Guiao, who needed just five minutes with Rain or Shine co-owners Terry Que and Raymund Yu to be convinced to sign up again, admits to having a “very small team” in the Painters, but said he will try his very best to measure up to the league heavyweights.
He likened Rain or Shine’s situation to a 100-meter dash where teams like San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, TNT, Meralco and Magnolia are already cruising at the 50-meter mark.
“The gap is easily 50 to 60 meters. And that’s just a 100-meter sprint,” he said.
Rain or Shine and Alaska collided for the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup, a title series that does not escape the memory of Guiao as the last one that was contested by independent teams.
That series ended with a 4-2 score for the Painters, who won the title despite import Pierre Henderson-Niles failing to average in twin digits in scoring.
It was also the year that Paul Lee blossomed into a superstar and guys like Jericho Cruz and Beau Belga announced their coming as big-time players.
But having big-time players is another thing that concerns Guiao in the modern PBA.
“You get to develop players, they become stars, and you lose them to the seven-year rule on free agency to monied teams,” he said. “That’s why the cycle is much more brutal these days. After 2016, that’s what the league has become.
“When you win a championship, that will be very hard to do again because one of the problems is losing your star players.”
Guiao also has an appeal to the fans of the league: “The public should understand that these [independent] teams are the ones they should root for. Their (fans’) taste should be for those who play it fair.
“We should emphasize to the viewing public that they should appreciate us because we follow the rules.”
And he has a message for the other teams doing otherwise:
“Magpa-galingan tayo, hindi mag-gulangan.”